New Mexico’s environment news + getting out for the eclipse

Recently we relaunched our weekly environment wrap-up as an email you can receive once a week. To subscribe, click here. What follows is only an abbreviated version of yesterday’s email. In 2004, Congress gave New Mexico 10 years to decide how to spend federal money on water projects in southwestern New Mexico. The state could pursue efficiency and restoration projects or build a diversion on the Gila River.

Leaked climate report paints dry picture of U.S. Southwest

July was the second warmest on record, just behind July 2016. And it marked the 391st consecutive month with warmer-than-average temperatures, according to NOAA’s most recent global climate report. Globally, the most “notable” warm temperatures occurred in Australia, southern South America, Mongolia, China—and the western United States. Those new numbers underscore the urgency of a new report on climate change and its impacts in the U.S.

Earlier this month, the New York Times posted a leaked report on climate change that 13 federal agencies had worked on under a mandate from Congress to assess climate science and climate change impacts every four years. Many people, including some of the report’s authors, worry the Trump administration will quash or alter the findings.

Augustin Plains Ranch order released, meetings scheduled on controversial water project

A few weeks ago, we reported on a proposal by Augustin Plains Ranch, LLC to build a pipeline and pump 54,000 acre-feet of water each year from the aquifer to the Albuquerque area. The 37 wells would all be in Catron County near the town of Datil. Now in its third iteration, the application is pending before the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer, which administers the state’s water resources. In July, the state agency canceled a pre-hearing meeting. But last week, it released the application’s scheduling order, which includes information about the project and the process, as well as upcoming public meetings.

New numbers from the state on revenue, reserves

Earlier today, we reported about New Mexico’s dipping reserves. In Fiscal Year 2016, the reserve fund was at $146 million, and in Fiscal Year 2017, New Mexico was $67 million in the red. Now, the Legislative Finance Committee has released its revenue forecast for the state. Among the report’s highlights:

Preliminary FY 2017 ending reserve balances are $329 million. Projected FY 2018 ending reserve balances are $206 million.

By not answering media questions, PED leaves public in the dark

As reporters, we have a lot of questions about the state of education here in New Mexico. Most people have strong opinions, and sometimes fiery debates can obscure the deeper issue of why New Mexico’s students aren’t faring as well as they should. Last week we published stories about education in New Mexico leading up to the start of the school year. We wanted to cut through the rhetoric and understand where schools and students are succeeding and where more work is needed. Unfortunately, those stories about education were missing one significant voice—the state’s Public Education Department (PED).

Albuquerque responds to violence at Virginia white supremacist rally

Sunday night in Albuquerque’s Old Town Plaza, the high staccato murmur of a toddler walking circles around the plaza hardly broke the silence of the approximately 200 people sitting in the grass and on the low walls around elm and cottonwood trees. People gathered to spend an hour in silence, in response to the weekend’s violence in Charlottesville, Virginia during a white supremacist rally. Occasionally, a dog yapped or a motorcyclist gunned his motor. Some people closed their eyes, while others looked toward the sky or watched the two people meditating silently in the plaza’s gazebo. There were sniffles and coughs and the muted clink of glasses being cleared from the patio at a restaurant on the edge of the plaza.

Re-introducing our statewide environment wrap-up

With summertime in the rearview mirror, we’re shifting gears at NM Political Report. Every Thursday, I’ll be sending out a review of environmental news around the state to a new email list. Subscribe below to receive the full email each Thursday! It’s just one email a week, with a New Mexico photo-of-the-week and information about upcoming public meetings and comment periods. #mc_embed_signup{background:#fff; clear:left; font:14px Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; width:100%;} /* Add your own MailChimp form style overrides in your site stylesheet or in this style block.

Confusion over DOI Secretary’s decision on land transfer

The U.S. Department of the Interior issued a press release about Secretary Ryan Zinke’s recent visit to the Sabinoso Wilderness in northern New Mexico—and a land transfer that would allow the federal government to open up a “landlocked” wilderness area to the public. The announcement left many involved with the issue confused. That’s because the secretary didn’t say he was denying or approving the land transfer. Rather, he said he “intend(s) to finalize the process to consider whether to accept” the donation of 3,595 acres of private land. In other words, he would start the process of making a decision.

State needs to enact changes to take advantage of STEM opportunities, interest

Giving New Mexico’s students better opportunities to understand science, technology, engineering and mathematics—and preparing them to lead the way in STEM-related careers, from physics and hydrology to video game design and civil engineering—will require real change in classrooms, beginning in the earliest grades. But in the last few years, Gov. Susana Martinez has been sending mixed messages. In 2015, Martinez announced that the state would bump spending on STEM programs by $2.4 million, or 20 percent. That money would go toward hiring more STEM teachers and providing a $5,000 stipend for math and science teachers in rural or underserved areas. At the time, Martinez said that the “future of the state’s economy depends on having an educated workforce that can meet the needs of employers in the years to come.”

But earlier this year, Martinez vetoed a bill that would have required the state’s teachers to follow the Next Generation Science Standards.

Pruitt says he’ll re-evaluate Gold King Mine claims EPA had rejected

The Denver Post reported Friday that Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt says he will re-evaluate the damage claims the agency had previously rejected from the Gold King Mine spill in August 2015. The New Mexico Office of the Attorney General, which was among those that had sought damages, has not heard from the agency, however. “We have confirmed that the EPA is not asking for resubmittals from those entities who have sued,” spokesman James Hallinan wrote in an email. “Thus, we did not receive the letter.” While conducting exploratory cleanup work of an abandoned mine in southwestern Colorado, federal contractors caused 3 million gallons of wastewater to spill from the Gold King Mine into the Animas River.